Memorandum by the Counselor of Legation in China (Peck), Temporarily in Washington

During the last few years internal policies in Nanking, such as economic programs, have been formulated in leisure, as the result of study and deliberation. In contrast with this process, the formulation of international policies has generally been the result of external pressure. One individual or group of individuals may feel pressure from one source and other individuals or groups from other sources; the policies formed to relieve this pressure generally represent the component of such pressures.

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The pressure resulting in foreign policies in Nanking may be internal or external. As an example of a foreign issue showing itself as an internal pressure may be mentioned the struggle for office within the government structure. Even before the formal transfer of the capital from Peiping to Nanking in 1928, the influential groups of “returned students” in the Government were divided roughly into the “European-American” and the “Japanese” parties; within the former group there were further subdivisions on the basis of separate countries, but the struggle has been mainly between the two large sections.

It is not evident that the countries in which Chinese returned students have obtained their foreign education make any planned effort to obtain official positions for the Chinese students whom they have educated; the crystallization of these groups seems to have been occasioned by community of intellectual interests, combination for purposes of joint advantage, et cetera. Nevertheless, there is in Nanking today an interesting campaign for the formation of cultural societies, composed mainly of foreigners and Chinese educated in the countries of origin of such foreigners, bearing names such as “Sino-British Cultural Association”, et cetera. In some cases these organizations have as their only sign of life occasional meetings. This is true in the case of the “Sino-Polish Cultural Association”, meetings of which are frequently attended in Nanking by the Polish Minister, Mr. Weydenthal. In other cases, for example, the British, French and German associations, buildings have been erected for the use of the societies, the funds coming sometimes from the Boxer Indemnity remissions.

To return, however, to the effect of these distinctions of nationality on the competition for official positions, it may be noted that for the last few years returned students from Japan have been somewhat eclipsed. In other words, the European-American group have succeeded in obtaining jobs, to the exclusion of Japanese returned students. The fortunes of conflict are now beginning to swing in the other direction. The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Wang Ching-wei, was educated both in Japan and in France. One vice minister was educated in American schools in China and in schools in the United States and the other vice minister was educated in Japan. Most of the important posts like that of director of a department are still held by men who were educated in Europe or America. Within the last few days the press has announced that Dr. J. Heng Liu, Director of the National Health Administration, has been obliged to assign a post in his organization to a Japanese, as adviser. A few months ago Dr. Liu informed the writer that the pressure of Japanese returned students for positions in the National Health Administration and in the Central Field Hospital was growing so intense that he did not think he would be able to withstand it permanently. [Page 209]As a man educated in the United States, he had appointed to posts in his organization physicians educated either in American institutions in China or in the United States, a policy of which Chinese physicians educated in Japan had always bitterly complained.

More than one year ago a Chinese military officer educated in the United States told the writer that the struggle between the Japanese returned students and the European-American returned students was going badly for the latter. He anticipated, and with apparent reason, that with the growth of Japanese influence over the Chinese Government the Japanese Government would insist upon the employment of more and more Japanese returned students.

In the matter of advisers to the National Government, the Japanese Government has publicly insisted that Japanese shall not be discriminated against in the future as they have been in the past.

The selection of government officials from one or the other of these two main groups of returned students results generally from a spontaneous reaction to the swing of foreign influence in China. For example, if it is the policy of the Chinese Government to seek the support of the European nations and the League of Nations, or of the United States, the natural tendency is to appoint to official positions men educated in Europe or America, in the belief that their presence in the Government will convince the European nations and America of the progress, intelligence, and stability of the Government and will, incidentally, facilitate the transaction of any business in which those nations may be concerned. On the other hand, if the Chinese Government no longer believes that effective assistance can be obtained from the League, or any of the nations in the League, or from the United States, the inevitable tendency will be to displace the European-American group of returned students with men educated in Japan. This explains why the fluctuations of international politics are watched with such personal interest by a large number of important officials in Nanking. It is possible that some of these officials educated in Europe and America, finding their supposed value in promoting rapprochement between China and European nations and the United States disappearing, may seek to align themselves with the pro-Japanese group, but this, if attempted, will be a difficult matter.

It is in this environment that China’s international policies are born and enough has been said to show that there is what may be called an internal pressure having its effect, however slight, in the determination of such policies. In the handling of routine business, of course, such as diplomatic “cases” in the Foreign Office, industrial projects and trade-mark cases handled by the Ministry of Industries, enterprises like the China National Aviation Company in the Ministry of Communications, and numberless other matters, it frequently [Page 210]makes a decided difference whether the official immediately in charge was educated in the United States or in Europe, or, on the other hand, in Japan.

Surveying the field of external pressure on the Chinese Government which has its effect in the determination of the Government’s foreign policies, we find our attention centered almost exclusively upon Japan. That is to say, while the Chinese do not anticipate any great benefit from a rapprochement with Japan, neither do they feel that they have derived any great benefit from their attempt during the last few years to cultivate the League and the United States. In this state of affairs the compelling factor is the ability and obvious intention of Japan to make the Chinese Government decidedly uncomfortable if it does not show itself more friendly to Japan than to any other nation or group of nations.

Based upon numerous conversations with important Chinese officials in Nanking, the writer has received the impression that, as Chinese, they resent the domineering attitude of the Japanese and their feeling of superiority; they fear that friendly association with Japan would result in the nation becoming a “puppet” of Japan and in their becoming “puppets” in their individual spheres; they do not relish the prospect that any Chinese seeking to achieve influential position in the Chinese Government must toady to the Japanese.

In addition to this psychological reason which tends to divert the present leaders in Nanking from a policy of Sino-Japanese friendship, there are at least two other reasons why it has not been easy to initiate the policy of conciliating Japan which began with the present year. One of these reasons is that the Nationalist Party and the Government have widely and carefully cultivated the idea that Japan is a predatory nation and that true patriotism on the part of Chinese demands resistance to Japan. It is difficult for the Government, with any degree of logic, to reverse its position publicly in this regard. A second reason is that the opponents of the present administration in Nanking are only too able to cause the Government embarrassment in its new departure by quoting its previous official statements on the impossibility of cooperation between China and Japan until the latter has abandoned its predatory policy and restored the loot.

It is interesting to note that Japan, in order to make this change of policy more easy for the Government at Nanking, has endeavored to persuade the most powerful political opponents of Nanking not to use this issue against Nanking. Very recently Mr. Suma, Japanese diplomatic officer resident in Nanking, naively told the writer that it was difficult for him to penetrate the complexities of Chinese internal politics, as an instance of which he said that it then appeared that [Page 211]the régime at Canton pretended that it was closer to the Japanese Government than the régime at Nanking was.

The authorities at Nanking assert that the Japanese Government, embracing both its civilian and military branches, makes use of various devices to weaken China, to prevent it from unifying and to embarrass the Chinese Government, in order to bring the Government to its knees, such means varying all the way from military occupation of territory down to threatening or persuasive conversations with provincial leaders and the instigation of secret, subversive movements. As an example of such tactics which was rather out of the ordinary, the writer was told that the Japanese cotton mills in Shanghai refused to purchase any of the American cotton acquired by the Chinese Government through the operation of the Cotton-Wheat Credit arrangement in 1933. As will be recalled, this resulted in the whole transaction proving unprofitable, although the then Minister for Foreign Affairs told the writer that because of this transaction, which was interpreted as a gesture of friendship from the United States, he had been encouraged to remain in his post a few months longer than would otherwise have been the case; this gentleman, as may be supposed, was of the European-American group, as opposed to the pro-Japanese group.

The actual process by which the foreign policies of the Chinese Government are formed involves agitation or recommendation by individuals in or connected with the Government; the effect of Chinese public opinion is, it may be conjectured, strong but not conclusive.

Naturally, the one individual most powerful in the formulation of foreign policies is General Chiang Kai-shek, Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, President of the Central Executive Committee of the Nationalist Party, et cetera. It is safe to say that nothing is done in the Government at Nanking which is known to be contrary to General Chiang’s desires or without ascertaining his views, if the subject matter is of such importance that he might be interested in it. Since General Chiang has latterly been residing at Nanchang in Kiangsi Province, and in Szechuan Province and in other places, this circumstance often delays the prosecution of business in which foreigners are concerned.

As is well known, General Chiang’s views with regard to Japan are that it would be suicidal for the present administration at Nanking openly to oppose Japan, both because China is in no position to fight Japan successfully and because a defeat at the hands of Japan would so discredit the present administration, and himself, that both would fall from power.

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The second most influential person having influence in the determination of foreign policies is Dr. Wang Ching-wei, President of the Executive Yuan, but he is supposed to be, at the present time, completely subservient to Chiang Kai-shek. Moreover, his personal adviser in these matters is Mr. Tang Yu-jen, Administrative Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was educated in Japan and believes, with General Chiang Kai-shek, that the only course open to China is to temporize with Japan, or even, for the time being, to work with Japan wholeheartedly in the political and economic development of China.

Owing to the inability of the Nanking Government to enforce its decisions, for example, on the Canton and Kwangsi leaders and even on such nearby leaders as General Han Fu-chu, in Shantung, the Government must be influenced by the probable attitude which would be taken by the provincial leaders in the event that they were subjected to direct Japanese pressure. Unfortunately for its power of free decision, the Nanking Government has reason to believe that none of these provincial leaders would stand out strongly against Japanese pressure, if powerfully exerted.

In theory, the departments of the National Government having most influence in forming China’s foreign policies are the Central Political Council and the Standing Committee of the Central Executive Committee, the two highest organs of the Nationalist Party, and the National Defense Committee, an organization created after trouble began with the Japanese in the autumn of 1931 and spring of 1932. The National Defense Committee has been described as being a sort of superior Executive Yuan, whose members are selected from the Government and Party and are all known adherents of General Chiang Kai-shek. Naturally, foreign policies are also discussed at meetings of the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan and since the same small group of persons are leaders in all of these organizations it is open to a great many persons, in the course of these discussions, to present their views to the minority which ultimately determine foreign policies.

It is the practice of General Chiang Kai-shek, however, to summon special conferences of the most prominent and most trusted leaders to discuss special problems in foreign relations as they arise. These conferences have in recent years taken place generally at General Chiang’s headquarters in Nanchang, Kiangsi, at Kuling, a summer resort in the same province, at Hankow, or elsewhere. Within the last few days such a conference is reported as having been summoned by General Chiang at Hankow to deal with the demands filed by the Japanese Kwantung Army in reference to political changes in North China. The participants in these conferences generally proceed to them in large American airplanes placed at their disposal by General Chiang.

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No questions of international relations equaling in importance those connected with relations with Japan have arisen in connection with other countries after 1931. Roughly speaking, therefore, Chinese leaders may be divided into two camps, one group urging that China will suffer least at the hands of Japan if Japan is conciliated, and the other advising resistance to Japan, based upon reliance on the League or individual European nations, or on the United States, or on China’s own ability to withstand pressure from Japan. Allusion has already been made to the known fact that General Chiang Kai-shek has adopted a policy of compromising with Japan, a policy which is reliably reported to have been commended recently to the favorable notice of the Chinese Government by the British Foreign Office. So far as can be learned the representatives of all other nations have carefully avoided all expression of opinion regarding the attitude which China should adopt toward Japan.

Although what precedes is only a partial discussion of the forces which have resulted in the present policy of the Nanking Government to conciliate Japan, it is possible that it will indicate why, in the absence of any indication of active interest in Europe and America in the Sino-Japanese struggle, the leaders in Nanking have decided, partially because they are exhausted, to give up the struggle for the time being.

It is an interesting conjecture whether nations other than Japan could influence China’s foreign policies by cultivating more actively than they do at present personal relations with officials of the Government who were educated in their respective countries. The reply to such a query would have to be, in the opinion of the writer, that so long as Japan applies to China military force or the threat of such force and other nations refrain from any active measures to restrain Japan, Japan will be the dominant influence in forming China’s foreign policies. After all, mere inclination must give way to compulsion.

W[illys] R. P[eck]